Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Tír na nóg' production line can help Castleknock's rise continue

Shane Boland will be hoping to get his hands on the Dublin SFC trophy for real this afternoon. Photo: Sportsfile
Shane Boland will be hoping to get his hands on the Dublin SFC trophy for real this afternoon. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Back in 2007, St Vincent's were in the process of breaking a run that, from their point of view, had lasted much too long.

They were chasing down a first Dublin title in 23 years. Pat Gilroy, an All-Ireland winner from 1995, was still there at full-forward. Mossy Quinn hovered beneath him, converting the scraps into scores.

Diarmuid Connolly was raw and made his Dublin debut that year, but those around Marino knew he was special. They'd win in Dublin and then, as blue bloods often do, they decided they'd keep going. St Vincent's went and won the All-Ireland.

And while normal service was resumed in one part of north Dublin, a new club was starting to hint at what was to come.

Castleknock hadn't been in existence for a decade by that stage and their teams spent most of their time operating on small piece of land beside Castleknock Community College known as Tír na nóg.

Those involved knew they had a good U-14 group coming up that year when they sent a team down to the All-Ireland hurling Feile. But even they were surprised when they went and won it outright in Kilkenny.

The club have made solid progress since then and bettered their lot on and off the pitch.

Shane Boland explained that that successful Féile team from 2007 forms the core of the side that have powered their way to a surprise appearance in today's Dublin SFC final.

"The core group of this adult team is basically from that team, there are a lot of us that played on that team and played a lot of football and hurling growing up," Boland said.

"And we won the minor football as well - Brian Fenton's Raheny beat us in the football Féile. We were always there or thereabouts in both codes.

"And when you have that winning mentality embedded in you, it sticks to you as you move up the grades."

Castleknock's move through the grades has been rapid. As recently as 2012, they played in the junior grade but Boland insists that none of the players are that surprised.

"My age group. . . we are the 1993 age group, and basically ever since we were six or seven, or whenever the club was founded, we have always been Division 1 and have been there or thereabouts every single year.

"So when it came to adult we had a mentality that we should be there or thereabouts. And that has stood to us as we progressed through the levels."

They've made the quantum leap without the host of star players. Ciaran Kilkenny is their best-known product but as Boland points out, they have won without him.

"For us now, he's kind of just another player. He just does his job that we give him for the team," said Boland.

"We won an intermediate championship without him, we won a Leinster junior without him when he was in Australia. So we are happy enough that the game just isn't completely (built) around him.

"Don't get me wrong, we are obviously going to try and utilise him. He's a huge asset to any team but I don't think our players are necessarily picking the ball up and looking to get to Ciarán every time we get it.

"We just see him as another player and when he's in space we'll give him the ball. If he's being tightly marked and someone else happens to be free, we are more than happy to give it to him."

The club is establishing more of a hold in the community. They have had their own pitches since 2011 and are in the process of fundraising to build a clubhouse.

A senior title would make it a lot easier to rattle buckets around Castleknock, but the on-pitch progress looks set to continue.

They won the football Féile earlier this year. Those youngsters' time will come but it's not today. The class of 2007 have defied expectations so far. And they have no plans to stop now either.

"We were joking about that at training, saying the likes of Mossy Quinn and Diarmuid Connolly have probably never even seen a Castleknock jersey before," said Boland.

"We used to play them a little bit when we were underage but we have absolutely no experience of playing the likes of Diarmuid Connolly and Mossy Quinn and this unbelievable Vincent's team that they've built over the last couple of years.

"So it's been hard to gauge what's going to happen because we've never played them at all. We don't really know what to expect, all we can do is work hard and see where that takes us."

Irish Independent

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